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5 Favorite Features: OSU University Commons

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University Commons is the newest housing project on the Oklahoma State University (OSU) campus consisting of three KSQ designed residence halls in an adapted traditional layout. The buildings house more than 900 students, have a modified Georgian exterior, and are united by a grand pedestrian quad. We asked members of our interior design team to share their favorite features from the project, and their responses offer insight into the design intent and how great design helps build campus community.

University Commons rooms are primarily double rooms with a community bath, and each residence halls has a two-story lounge, community laundry, and community kitchen to promote student interaction. The team wanted to create social opportunities but they also know students need spaces to have private conversations and study sessions. These quiet spaces are one of the team’s favorite features.

ALONE IN THE CROWD
The residence halls offer additional living space and privacy with private nooks, pods and window benches incorporated into every floor. “The window benches are a favorite feature,” explains Emily Sappington, NCIDQ. “Because they make a great place to take a breath and gaze across campus.”

OSU window bench

The little nooks featured on each floor at the end of corridors not only increase function by adding living space but also make a great spot to take a phone call or study late at night if your roommate is trying to sleep.

OSU pod 1

Each building also has eight pods, each with a different function. Some pods are for individual use and others are for multiple people to collaborate. The pods have high back bench seats with comfortable fabric and several pods have writable surfaces for brainstorming.

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OSU study room

“My favorite is what we called ‘Pod C’,” says interior designer Danielle Terrell. “It reminds me of a window bench or a big comfy chair to curl up and study–some of my favorite locations to study while I was in college.”

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UNEXPECTED CHOICES
In the student units the design team used luxury vinyl tile (LVT) which is unexpected since “luxury” isn’t a word commonly used to describe residence hall materials. But, LVT made perfect sense to our design team and they found it to be an impressive choice and material.

“LVT has many benefits,” explains Kaitlin Voska. “It offers a nice wood-look while being durable, long lasting, and hypoallergenic. Students have a neutral color allowing them to bring in their own style and color scheme, and LVT is easy to clean.”

Adriana Vadasz was pairing different textures with different finishes for a two-story lobby and found the Folded Tile from Stone Source to be a great fit. The product–conceived by Raw Edges studio–was inspired by the idea of walking onto a “folded floor” or entering a space covered with “unfolded paper.” Adriana made the unexpected choice of using the product on a wall instead of the floor and it ended up being one of her favorite features in the space.

BRINGING THE OUTDOORS IN
OSU has been recognized for its beautiful, green campus, and University Commons has already been recognized for its place among the trees. The new student housing development has already earned the nickname the “Treehouses” and Emily views the main lounge in the West Building as a special place because the wood ceiling and fireplace elements resemble “the large trees scattered across Library Lawn.”

The “treehouse” balcony–shown below–is suspended at the second level of the lounge. Emily points out that “students frequently spend time between classes under the shade of these trees and these building features emulate that experience indoors.”

OSU Treehouse
Besides Library Lawn students have views (and space for recreation and relaxation) on the University Commons quad created as part of the new residential community:

The lobby in each hall represents an architectural element reflective of the campus and the surrounding Stillwater, Okla., landscape. The South Building represents boulders, and the minerals and soil in the area. Adriana was inspired by “hiking trails and where these trails would lead–the final destination could be a waterfall, a big cliff, or a stone monument.”

While designing the space, she imagined where she would find a boulder and what would surround it. Her design incorporates a balcony with a cable railing “just like you would find at a national park to keep visitors protected from the edge” and Fold Light Fixtures from Vibia reminded her of rock climbing or the natural holes you find on big rocks.

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OSU lobby fireplace

Adriana also used a variety of textures and created trail paths using two different tiles and two different carpets in the corridors of the building. In the main lobby she created a fireplace with a blend of local stone. “The fireplace ties the space together,” she explains. “It represents boulders established in the trails.”

DREAM IT AND BUILD IT
When Danielle first started designing the North Building (the “Fountain” building) she looked for ways to evoke the feeling of water or a running fountain, but didn’t want the inspiration to be too literal. “My mind drifted to all of the ways I could incorporate waves, ripples and curves,” Danielle explained. “I found a design that I felt worked well except for the ceiling. I felt like the ceiling really needed to be something special and unique.”

Fountain Concept Board

Danielle went through over a dozen design ideas, but didn’t find an idea that worked or felt right. She finally stumbled upon an image from a hotel lobby that was closer to what she was going for but completely altered it to create a linear, metal look.

“I had already designed the back-lit 3Form installation near the lounge entrance and appreciated how people saw something different with the blue fins and orange backdrop when they walked by. Why not apply the same thought process to the ceiling sculpture to give it a sense of movement and playfulness?”

Using OSU orange on one side and raw metal on the backside, Danielle worked with Kelly McCoy (a KSQ’er with fabrication experience) to determine how to build what she dreamed up. The result:

OSU Ceiling Sculpture 1

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And her back-lit 3Form installation near the lounge entrance:

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OSU lobby 3form installation
“I’m very proud of the finished ceiling sculpture,” said Danielle. “It represents what design and architecture are all about; dreaming and making those dreams a reality.”

PERSONAL CONNECTION
For our design team, this project hits close to home, as it’s less than two hours from the interior design team’s office in Tulsa. Some members of the interiors team are also OSU alum. Adriana is a second-generation OSU graduate; her father received his Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate degrees from the University and inspired Adriana to leave Venezuela and come to the U.S. to study and earn both her Bachelors and Masters degree at OSU. Kaitlin Voska anticipates her younger sister will be living in University Commons soon, and Emily is such a proud OSU alum, the school’s mascot Pistol Pete made an appearance at her wedding.

OSU Interior Team

(L to R) Adriana, Danielle and Emily

(L to R) Principal-in-Charge Mark Bragg, Project Manager Kim McCoy, OSU Assistant Vice President Student Affairs Mitch Kilcrease, Lead Interiors Emily Sappington, NCIDQ

(L to R) Principal-in-Charge Mark Bragg, Project Manager Kim McCoy, OSU Assistant Vice President Student Affairs Mitch Kilcrease, Lead Interiors Emily Sappington, NCIDQ

In addition to the features chosen by the team, the residence halls also contain water bottle filling stations, high speed wireless and Ethernet connections, front desk and mail operation areas and cable TV in each room. Learn more about the project in The Oklahoman Common Ground: OSU Students Get Access to ‘Suite-Style Amenities In A Traditional Setting.”

The OSU University Commons Housing project received the Associated Builders & Contractors of Oklahoma’s 2015 Excellence in Construction Awards and received an Eagle statue and medal as winner in the Institutional (over $25M) category. Congratulations to the project team (and a big shout out to our construction partner Flintco and Wallace Engineering) on this achievement!

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